While the conservative co-religionists of the Bush administration advocate more tax breaks for the rich and the very rich, poverty in America has risen again, according to the U. S. Census Bureau. Contrast that with the comments made last year by the first "evangelical President," Jimmy Carter. In an interview with The American Prospect, Carter said, "Christ was committed to compassion for the most destitute, poor, needy, and forgotten people in our society. Today, most of the people strongly committed to the Republican philosophy have adopted the proposition that help for the rich is the best way to help even poor people by letting some of the financial benefits drip down to those most deeply in need. [T]he ultra-right wing, in both religion and politics, has abandoned that principle of Jesus Christ's ministry." Just like the Rich Man in Luke 16, who let the beggar Lazarus eat the crumbs under his table.
Commerce Department spokeswoman E.R. Anderson, channeling Dick Cheney, called the Census Bureau's disturbing news "the last gasp of indicators for the recession." I guess that means we're in for years of increasing poverty in the richest nation in the world. Here in solidly Red South Carolina, our income slipped again for the fourth time in as many years, and more families with young children will be getting their primary nourishment from free lunches at school.
My ministry as the director of a local United Way throws me headlong into the battle with poverty and despair on a daily basis. Our food pantry is running low, we haven't had a shipment of USDA commodities in months, private sector donations are scarce and I am certain that the shifting of resources to relief and recovery efforts for Hurricane Katrina will impact our annual fundraising drive.
I'm tired. Tired of Christians who identify middle-class American values with the Gospel. Tired of a government which proudly proclaims that it supports faith-based initiatives while slashing the funding that would support them. Tired of wars fought for political reasons masquerading as wars of defense. Tired of hearing that there is a hidden socialist agenda within faith-based calls for Americans to really eliminate poverty, here and in the Two-Thirds world. Tired of being lied to and lied about.
How about you?
Hurricane Katrina may rank among the worst natural disasters in American history. We at United Way are closely monitoring the situation. My phones have been ringing with well-intentioned requests for us to "do something." Right now there is little that any of us can do, but pray and make a donation to the relief efforts. You can do that through United Way's national online donation site for the hurricane victims. As the situation becomes clearer, United Way and its partner agencies like American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, will let you know what else you can do. Thanks for your prayers and gifts.